Meet Kiss, the rescue Border Collie, who visits patients at Orange Coast Medical Center as part of our Pet Therapy program!

“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.” Thorn Jones

How true that is, just ask Jane Horsfield, “mom” to Kiss, one of Orange Coast Medical Center’s nine therapy dogs! This rescue Border Collie has been visiting patients at Orange Coast Medical Center since 2009 and is Jane’s second therapy dog to walk our halls. Kiss was adopted when she was six months old. She was a very high energy puppy and it was a rocky start teaching Kiss basic commands such as sit or stay. Jane would come home to chewed walls, baseboards, leather shoes, glasses, etc. “During these times.....she’d just look at me with those sweet brown eyes of hers seeming to say ‘But mom, I love you sooooo much!’ It was impossible to discipline this dog who had no idea that she had done anything wrong. It was so evident however that she had a capacity for love even back then,” says Jane. They worked hard with at-home training, obedience classes and finally therapy evaluation time came and she passed!

“Many people don’t understand why our therapy dog teams want to visit people in hospitals. In the beginning, I didn’t even understand the impact it would have on me. It’s that smile on the faces of patients as they caress the dog that inspires me. It’s the soft touch of their hand on her head. I really had no idea the impact it would make, and it’s really hard to explain to others who haven’t experienced it....on either side of the bed. But it is huge....and wonderful and I would not give it up willingly for anything.” Jane Horsfield

Spearheaded by Dale Vital, VP of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, the therapy dog program at Orange Coast Medical Center began in June 2008 and has grown to nine dogs: Kiss, Liza, Bailey, Andre, Zip, Bailey Stryker, Max and two poodles named Teddy. All of the dogs are certified as pet therapists through the Animal Health Foundation or a similar program. They range in breed and size from as small as a Miniature Poodle all the way to a Bernese Mountain Dog, but the care they each provide our patients is identical: unconditional love!

“I was inspired to launch a Pet Therapy program here at Orange Coast Medical Center based on the joy that I receive from nurturing my own animal at home. As a highly active and productive person, I could only imagine what happiness a pet could bring to someone who is confined to a hospital bed, less mobile, and removed from their loved ones. I wanted to see the smile that my pet brings to me reflected on the faces of all of our patients who embrace this comforting and healing service.” Dale Vital, CNO

Pet Therapy can help people gain improved emotional and physical health. It can be an effective treatment for reducing pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue (Mayo Clinic, 2012). Some of the benefits of pet therapy are:

  • Improved outward focus
  • Improved rapport between a patient and health care provider
  • Increase in mental stimulation as patients communicate about the animal
  • Increased opportunities for physical contact
  • Improved physiological state, including decreases in heart rate and blood pressure

Something our teams have noticed is that it’s never just the patients that benefit from a dog therapist visit. Family members and friends who are visiting loved ones are amazed at how better even they feel after some pets and hugs with a dog. They are a welcomed distraction in times of high stress and worry.

For more information on our Pet Therapy program or volunteering at Orange Coast Medical Center, please contact Jennifer O’Hair, Volunteer & Concierge Services Supervisor at [email protected] or (714) 378-7749.